Apostilles and Authentications can be done ONLY in the country where your document was made. For example, if you were born in Canada but lived in the US, your Birth Certificate should be Authenticated in Canada. In this country, your Birth Certificate is made. If you married in the US, your marriage certificate should be Apostilled there. If you’re thinking about moving to Costa Rica, there are a few things you need to know before you start packing. One of the most common questions at Costa Rica Immigration Experts is, “What paperwork do I need to move to Costa Rica?” This is an important question, as getting your documents in order is crucial if you want to immigrate to Costa Rica successfully.

In this article, we’ll review the paperwork you need to move to Costa Rica, the difference between Apostille and Authentication, and how to translate your documents.


What is the difference between Apostille and Authentication?

Apostille is a certificate that authenticates the signature of a public official on a document for use in another country. Conversely, authentication proves or shows something accurate, genuine, or valid.

All your documents should be either Apostilled or Authenticated (it depends on whether your home country is part of the Apostille Convention). For example, Canada is not part of the Apostille Convention, meaning you cannot Apostille your document. Still, you must fill it out with Global Affairs and certify it with the Embassy of Costa Rica. Please check whether your home country is a part of the Apostille Convention or not HERE.

Note: Each document should have its own Apostille or Authentication. You cannot Apostille or Authenticate two or more documents at once – the Immigration of Costa Rica will NOT accept that!

Necessary: The translation of ALL your documents should be done ONLY in Costa Rica by an official translator (CRIE provides this service for you).

Only in the nation where your document was issued can it be apostilled or authenticated. If you were born in Canada but lived in the United States, your birth certificate should be authenticated in Canada. Your Birth Certificate was issued in this nation. If you married in the United States, your marriage certificate must be Apostilled in the United States.

The Immigration of Costa Rica accepts the originals only*. All your documents (except for your Birth Certificate, which is valid for life) AND all their Apostilles or Authentications should be not older than six months from the date of issue.

* Remember: the Immigration of Costa Rica will keep all your original documents. So if you need your records as well – please feel free to request more while ordering them.


Birth Certificate

If you were born in the USA, your birth certificate should be from the state where you were born. Each state has its own Vital Records office, typically run by the state’s Department of Public Health. You MUST have a LONG FORM certified copy of your birth record, including your parents’ names, or Costa Rica Immigration will NOT accept it. Some states will let you order an Apostilled birth certificate. Otherwise, you must send the birth certificate to the corresponding authority (typically your state’s Secretary of State) to be Apostilled. Your original birth certificate may or may not be able to be Apostilled by your condition if it’s too old. We suggest you order a new certified copy of your birth record (for example, Virginia, Oregon, or Colorado).

Example: Illinois
If you were born in Illinois, you’d need to obtain a copy of your birth certificate from the Illinois Department of Public Health. Once you receive the birth certificate, you must have it apostilled by the Secretary of State’s Index Department. The birth certificate is now ready to bring to Costa Rica to be translated locally.


Criminal Record Check

The second document to obtain is your criminal record check. Costa Rica Immigration requires ONLY your federal record from the FBI, not a criminal record check from local municipal or county police stations. You can request a Criminal Record Check from the FBI directly, but it is much easier and faster to use an FBI-approved channeler for this service:
The Channeler will be able to take your fingerprints on-site, or you can obtain and fill out a fingerprint card at your local police station.

Please ask for an AUTHENTICATED response from the FBI, or else the U.S. Department of State won’t accept it for an apostille. We suggest using National Background Check, Inc. for this purpose since they provide authenticated criminal record checks that can be apostilled.

After receiving your FBI criminal background check, you must have it apostilled by the US Department of State. You can send it directly to them for processing, but it is also worth using a local agent to handle your Apostille on your behalf, such as US Legalization. Once you receive the apostilled criminal record check, it will be translated to Costa Rica.

For Canada – RCMP Police Checks are required (not local Police).


Marriage Certificate

Costa Rica Immigration requires one original recent Marriage Certificate per couple. This document should be Apostilled or Authenticated in the country where it was issued. Please ensure you have your valid Marriage Certificate and Apostille (6 months or older).

At CRIE (Costa Rica Immigration Experts), we can help you by providing the service of having your FBI Background Check requested and Apostilled in the USA.


Final Thoughts

Relocating to Costa Rica is a thrilling experience, but you must have all of your documentation in order before you go. Each document must be Apostilled or Authenticated separately, and you cannot Apostille or Authenticate two or more papers simultaneously. Ensure you have a LONG FORM certified copy of your birth record, and the FBI and Apostilled authenticate your criminal record check by the U.S. Department of State. With all your documents in order, you’ll be one step closer to starting your new life in Costa Rica!

-Written by Glenn Tellier (Founder of CRIE and Grupo Gap).

[email protected]


Frequently Asked Questions

What is the first step to moving to Costa Rica?

The first step is to obtain a valid passport.

Is it necessary to speak Spanish to move to Costa Rica?

While Spanish is the official language of Costa Rica, it is not a requirement to speak it. However, learning some basic phrases to navigate daily life is recommended.

How long does the immigration process take?

The immigration process can take anywhere from 3 to 6 months, depending on the visa type and the required documentation’s completeness.

Can I work in Costa Rica as a foreigner?

Yes, you can work in Costa Rica as a foreigner but you need a work permit. You can apply for a work permit after obtaining a residency visa.

Can I bring my pets with me to Costa Rica?

Yes, you can bring your pets to Costa Rica, but you must obtain the required documentation, including a health certificate and proof of vaccination.

What is the cost of living in Costa Rica?

The cost of living in Costa Rica varies depending on your lifestyle and location, but it is generally lower than in North America or Europe.

Can I buy property in Costa Rica as a foreigner?

Yes, foreigners can buy property in Costa Rica, but they must follow specific legal procedures and may face some restrictions in certain areas.

What is the healthcare system like in Costa Rica?

Costa Rica has a universal healthcare system, meaning everyone, including foreigners, can access medical care. Healthcare quality is generally good, and the cost is lower than in many other countries.


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  • Virginia
    Posted February 5, 2019 5:54 pm 0Likes

    We are applying for residency in May after the birth of a child here. Can we do fingerprints in Costa Rica and mail them to the US? Or do we need to fly back to the United States to do our fingerprints at a police station in the US? I’m so kicking myself for not doing it while we were there over the holidays. Thanks.

    • Admin
      Posted February 5, 2019 8:08 pm 0Likes

      Hello Virginia!

      There’s no need to kick yourself, you can get (fingerprints, request your FBI background check, request birth certificates) from Costa Rica and we can assist you with everything.

      Feel free to contact us at your earliest convenience at: +506-8373-2085

      Here are some useful links for your convenience:



      Have a great evening!

  • Pierre Jodoin
    Posted October 27, 2022 12:10 pm 0Likes

    Does the RCMP Police Records needs only the fingerprints, or, also a foto?
    How much are your fees for the fingerprints?

    • admin
      Posted October 27, 2022 5:36 pm 0Likes

      Hello, Pierre!
      Your RCMP should have your fingerprints and your photo. Please contact [email protected] for details.

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